Autism is one of those disorders that develop during a child’s early years. Most parents suspect that something might be wrong with their child, because he either does not develop at the same rate as his peers or he suddenly loses the ability to do certain things that he previously could do easily. It takes time to come to the point where a professional will make the diagnosis and receiving this diagnosis will probably be devastating, but a relief at the same time. Knowing what is wrong with your child opens doors to support, educational and medical help that is focused on your child’s specific needs.
There are no one known cause of autism. It is speculated that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors that cause this disorder. Autism might be present from the start of a baby’s development or can manifest as a sudden loss of previously attained abilities. Signs of autism are usually present before the age of 3. Boys have 3 to 4 times higher chance of becoming autistic than girls. When there is a family history of autism, the probability of autism increases. Other disorders like Fragile X syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome and epilepsy puts a child at a higher risk to develop autism. It was found that when the father is older than 40 years the chances of a child developing autism increases six fold.
Children suffering from autism cannot make sense of the world in the way that we do, they experience the world differently. These children have difficulty in mainly three areas:
Early Indicators of Autism:
- No babbling or coo-ing by the age of 1
- No making use of gestures by the age of 1
- No use of single word by 16 months
- No two word phrases by the age of 2
- No response when he is called by his name
- Sudden loss of previously acquired language or social skills
- Poor eye contact when spoken to
- Excessive lining up of toys or other objects of interest
- No smiling or other social responsiveness.
- Inability to make friends
- Difficulty initiating or sustaining any conversation
- Lack of imaginative and social play
- Stereotyped, repetitive and unusual use of language
- Restricted patterns of interest, which is abnormal in its intensity and focus.
- These children have a preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
- An inflexible adherence to their rituals and routines.
When we break their symptoms into social skills, language skills and behavioral skills we will notice the following symptoms present in autistic children:
Social Skills: These children do not respond to their own name being called out. They have poor eye contact when spoken to and appear not to hear when people try to engage with them. They resist cuddling and holding, probably due to sensory overloading. Autistic children seem unaware of others’ feelings and also prefer solitary play.
Language Skills: Autistic children generally start talking later than their peers or loses the ability to use words and sentences they were using previously. They seem to avoid eye contact when they are requested to complete certain tasks. When they do speak they show abnormal rythm and tone – speaking either in a sing-song voice or robot-like. These children struggle to start or sustain any form of communication and may repeat words or phrases with no actual understanding of how to use them correctly in a conversation.
Behavioral Skills: Their repetitive movement are probably one on the signature symptoms of autistic children. They adhere to specific routines and rituals and will become very disturbed when there is a change in their routine. These children are constantly on the move, never sitting still. They are often fascinated by parts of an object like the wheels on a toy car. It seems like these children are over-sensitive to light, sound and touch, but sometime oblivious to any form of pain.
There is no cure for autism. Treatment for children should focus on how they can adjust to the world that they are living in. Of primary concern is the communication skills of these children and associated with this social skills. Certain medicines are used, but these medications rather focus on the eliminating of symptoms of associated anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive behavior, seizures and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Of utmost importance is the education of the parents, siblings and family as how to deal with this child that is so different from them.